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youthful French restaurants in DC

Greetings from Boston!

A colleague is leaving us for a new job in DC, starting there on June 15. She's definitely a foodie -- has even written some high-profile restaurant reviews as a freelancer -- so for a going-away present we'd like to give her a $100 gift certificate to a DC restaurant.

This colleague is a Francophile, so a French restaurant would be a good bet. She's also 24, so "youthful and lively" would be preferable to "august and fusty." In case it helps, one of her favorite Boston restaurants can be found online at http://www.seldelaterre.com.

Thanks in advance for your advice on any restaurants that might be a good match!


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  1. Is Bistrot du Coin still open in Dupont Circle? It used to be a pretty hopping place with solid, old fashioned bistro food in a chic, fun environment (for a bistro, in DC). The moules frites used to be especially good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Special_K

      Open and bustling. I ate there yesterday. It's definitely French and youthful and the food is solid. Also a great location in a neighborhood your friend will want to explore. $100 will go pretty far there.

      1. re: Special_K

        This is a great choice, $100 can travel a long way at this restaurant but it can be a challenge to get in. Bistrot Francis is good in G-town and so is Bistrot d'Oc downtown.

      2. Also might want to check out Citronelle- Michel Richard's place in Georgetown. It's a bit stuffy but it's one of the best restaurants in town- I'm 25 and went there a few years ago. Definitely worth the atmosphere if you're a foody. Plus they have tasting menus that she can use the gc for.

        1 Reply
        1. re: christmascookie

          Citronelle is great but I wouldn't consider it "youthful and lively." For something more hip and youthful I would look at Citronelle's little sister, Central. (Although neither is traditionally French in terms of bistro cuisine but certainly in training and style)

        2. One of my coworkers, whom I think is 23, likes to go to Bistro Bis for happy hour.

          1. I think Bistro du Coin would probably be your best bet. It is the real deal---feels like it is straight out of Paris with great bistro cuisine and a bustling environment. It's open late and lots of people hang out there well into the night on the weekends...certainly a fun neighborhood hangout. Plus a lot of Francophiles hang out there---including the owners.

            For something a little different you might also consider Central. It's an American bistro based on French technique by the wonderful Michel Richard. It's certainly a hot spot in town!

            1. Good Question! Central Michel Richard is the only place I can think of where the menu is not ripped off the walls of the Franco-American Friendship Museum. Michel Richard has developed his own takes on fried chicken, mac n' cheese, and foie gras that are unique. Plus the level you've chosen will go pretty far, not so at Citronelle. Anyway, here is the website:


              2 Replies
              1. re: Steve

                I absolutely agree, Central is definitely the place. Though you could say it's not "traditional French", I think its just not stereotypical French. It is innovative takes on both French and American comfort food. The cassoulet is the best I've had in the states, and it doesn't get more French then that. It is certainly young and hip, and $100 will get you most of the way to dinner for two there. Last time I was there Michel Richard was dining with family.

                1. re: chaussonauxpommes

                  It's definitely a sort of French technique applied to fusion comfort food (miso broth French onion soup?). Food is fantastic, the bar is nice, but my defining question to the OP would be whether or not their colleague enjoys rich food. Food is fantastic but very rich.

              2. Bistro Lepic - unlike Bistro du coin, this place serves really good food, not just your stereotypical french bistro food served to the dupont circle crowd.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                  What does Bistro Lepic serve that is unique or different?

                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                    Sorry, maybe I should rephrase that: what, in your opinion, does Bistro Lepic serve that is not stereotypical? All the Googling in the world won't give me menu recommendations, specials, or your opinion for that matter.

                    1. re: Steve

                      It's been awhile since I've been there but I remember them being one of the few restaurants that served pied de cochon. Their current menu also includes kidney. I think Bistrot Lepic is generally a better restaurant than Bistro du Coin (even though they both serve bistro fare). I also like the suggestion of Cafe du Parc below.

                      1. re: Ericandblueboy

                        Just in case you are a big fan, I saw pied de cochon on the Central menu recently.

                        1. re: Ericandblueboy

                          Thanks, I'll check out Bistro Lepic.

                          1. re: Steve

                            i've enjoyed bistro lepic, too. good food, good service.

                  2. I'd second Central (I would consider all the others that have been mentioned to be pretty old-school, though Bistro du Coin is definitely lively). But Cafe du Parc at the Willard would be another option. With bright blue walls, white furniture, and outdoor dining, it's very bright and cheerful, and I've had some pretty darn good meals there, too.

                    1. Thanks so much for these wonderful suggestions!


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tunamelt

                        Central would be good, and I also like the Belga Cafe.

                      2. Sorry to chime in late...

                        What about Montmartre on Capitol Hill. I've wanted to go here to try it out. I hear great things.


                        Cafe Bonaparte in Gtown is kinda cute. I've had brunch there but not dinner.

                        Also in Gtown in Bistro Francais. Which seems to be an old stand-by for a lot of folks.

                        And I had a nice meal at Bastille in Old Town.

                        I agree about Bistro Du Coin. Also, while I thought Central was pretty good. I don't think it's an overly youthful/french/neat atmosphere. But, alas, that is something I find sad about a lot of D.C. restaurants. *sigh*


                        1. As a recently transplanted Bostonian myself (and one who would often enjoy Wine Wednesdays at Sel de la Terre), I agree with the poster who recommended Bistro Bis - as the most "similar" environment and food offerings. Bistrot du Coin is nice and fun and lively and all, but Sel presented a more upscale environment, creative cocktails and a place where the chef has more of a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.

                          One other suggestion would be Mendocino in Georgetown. It's not french, but the menu has the same type of attentiveness to local and seasonal as Sel does. The atmosphere is quite similar (except considerably smaller) and the crowd seems to run the gamut (I love the beer and cheese pairing they do).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: weathermasta

                            I love Bistro Bis for French food, I can never get past their really good escargot preparations. They just always continue to impress with me with the quality and taste.

                            I think Monmatre is ok, I wouldn't want a gift certificate their though, not quite sure why, but it just doesn't really thrill me as an experience, it is good, especially if you are in the area, but not memorable.

                          2. Lavandou in cleveland park is wonderful...the best cheese plate of any small reasonably priced restaurant in the city. Montmartre in Eastern market is great too...similar provencal menu. Both are owned and run by native French folk...with native French chefs...and reasonably priced.